On Thursday at PNC Park the Pirates were poised to take a 3-0 series from the Chicago Cubs. Something magical happened, at least for the Cubs. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Chicago did not believe those illusions or any other magic tricks that the Pirates pulled out could beat them, three times in a row.
On opening day, which happened to be first day of the first Pirates series of 2014, the Pirates squeezed out a victory in the bottom of the tenth inning and after a day of rest, the Buc’s labored for 16 innings well into the am in what eventually ended up as a 4-3 Pittsburgh victory. There have been more innings played in Pittsburgh but the 5-hour, 55-minute slugfest set the mark for the longest Major League Baseball game ever played in Pittsburgh.
The alchemy of the team was interrupted with reality when Wandy Rodriguez took the mound for the Pirates after the marathon game the night before. The Cubs got to Rodriguez and lead 1-0 after the first and scored two additional runs to lead 3-0 before the Pirates finally got on the board scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the seventh. Cubs manager Rick Renteria seemed to take a deep breath as his squad gave him his first 2014 regular season win. Renteria said; “I didn’t think it was going to be such a relief but it is quite a relief. It’s nice to win. These games were tough. Taking the last one was very gratifying.”
Although the Cubs got to Rodriguez early, Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle still expressed confidence in his pitcher after a 10 month layoff. Hurdle said that; “(Rodriguez) finished up very efficiently, very strong, a very good outing. [This was] a big confidence boost for him and a momentum builder.”
Rodriguez was relieved in the top of the seventh by Edison Volquez. Volquez who normally would be a starter filled a relief role in light of the limited number of pitchers available because of the lengthy game played the night before.
The one bright spot of the day was the visit to the press box by former Pirate Manny Sanguillen, accompanied by his perpetuel trademark smile. Sanguillen is considered by many as one of the best, if not the greatest catcher in the team’s history.
The honeymoon is over because no team can go an entire season without losing a game. There is no magic wand to wave to insure a victory. The Pirates will not sneak up on anyone this season. They had better be ready because the remainder of the MLB will certainly be ready for them.
Aubrey Bruce is the Senior Sports Columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741